Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Bashir Tofa Wins Karaye Literary Award


Let me begin by conveying the apology of my boss, Hajiya Bilkisu Bashir, founder of the Engineer Mohammed Bashir Karaye Prize for Hausa Writing on whose behalf I am here today to address you. She would have loved to be here with you physically to savour these beautiful moments in the midst of you all. Unfortunately, she could not make it as a result of official work. I wish to convey her regards to all of you. I can assure you that she is here with us in spirit.

Next, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to address you. It is really a great honour to be in the midst of writers.

Before proceeding to announce the winners of the 2009 edition of the Engineer Mohammed Bashir Karaye Prize in Hausa for Hausa Writing, I would once again like to convey the Hajiya’s apology for the inability of the Organizing Committee to hold the 3rd Grand Award Ceremony in the month of October, which has become the tradition.

Let me use this opportunity to formally confirm an earlier statement made by ANA Abuja that this year’s edition of the Karaye Award will now take place in Kano. The reason behind this change is to enable greater participation by Hausa writers and readers, most of whom are based in Kano. In addition, Kano is the home state of the man after whom the Karaye Prize is named. He also lived and worked in that city for the greater part of his life. Holding this year’s edition in Kano is also a way of honoring his memory.

Distinguished writers, let me use this opportunity to thank the leadership of ANA and the entire writers’ community for a most wonderful relationship over these past three years. We look forward to a warmer and better relationship that will push Nigerian literature to greater heights. Literature is the mirror through which the society sees itself. It is also a very powerful tool for promoting national integration and unity. I urge all of you to use this beautiful trade to re-brand Nigeria by fighting corruption and other social ills through literary works and to foster better relationship for the good of all of us.

Further, writing in indigenous Nigerian language will keep our language alive and thereby help to preserve our identity as a people of unique culture. I am highly delighted to be associated with ANA, the umbrella body of Nigerian writers’ community who are committed to using their trade to create a better society.

The Engineer Mohammed Bashir Karaye Foundation shall continue to support creative writing and writers in Nigeria as much as. It is in the light of the above that I am happy to announce as follows:

Arrangements have been concluded by the Engineer Mohammed Bashir Karaye Foundation to organize workshops for Hausa writers. This is a follow-up to the observations and recommendations of the literary judges of the three editions of the prize. We believe that this workshop for Hausa writers would help improve the quality of Hausa writing. This workshop will take place, God willing, in the near future. Attendants shall include writers who have sent entries for the three previous editions of the prize and others in accordance with the capacity of the Foundation’s little fund. Details of the programme will be published soon by the Karaye Foundation. The proposed workshop is part of the Foundation’s contributions to improving the quality of writing in Hausa language in particular and the development of Nigerian literature in general.

As you are aware, we have added the Drama category this year, and although the entries were low, it is our hope that it will improve in the subsequent editions both in quality and in quantity.

Furthermore, in line with our determination to promote all genres of literature, I am happy to announce that the 2009 edition of the Prize will now feature Hausa poetry. We urge Hausa writers to get their works ready for this competition.


I will now announce the result of the 2009 edition of the Engineer Mohammed Bashir Karaye Prize for Hausa Writing as submitted by the literary judges and ratified by the EXCO of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Abuja Chapter (the administrators of the prize) beginning with the Prose category.

The second runner-up is ‘Saba Dan Sababi’ by Hafsat M. Abdulwaheed. The first runner-up is ‘Walkiya’ by Mohammed Barista.

The winner is ‘Mu Sha Dariya’ by Alhaji Bashir Othman Tofa.

I will now move on to the Drama category. The 2nd runner-up is ‘Sodangi’ by Khalid Imam, the first runner up is ‘Kowa Yayi Da Kyau’ by Kabiru Yusuf Anka. The winner of the maiden edition of the Drama Category of the Engineer Mohammed Bashir Karaye Prize for Hausa Writing is ‘Malam Zalimu’ by Ahmad Gidan Dabino.

May I on behalf of Hajiya Bilkisu Bashir, the founder and financier of this Prize, congratulate the winners and the runners-up. To those of you who did not win, I urge you to keep writing. Thank you immensely for identifying with our cause. Our esteem thanks also goes to the judges for a most meticulous job. We are also grateful to the leadership of ANA Abuja for their cooperation. May God bless all of you.

Finally, the Prize money totaling N600, 000.00 shall be given to the winners at Kano at the Grand Award Ceremony. You are all invited. The particular date and venue shall be announced shortly.

It has been a great pleasure seeing you and being in your company. While looking forward to more fruitful relationship with ANA, I thank you for this wonderful opportunity to address you.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Still On The Murder Of Sheikh Ja'afar

The following "hot" interview was published by LEADERSHIP newspaper last Friday. It gives an insight into the establishment of one of the most interesting radio stations in Nigeria - Freedom Radio, Islamic activism in Kano City, the murder of the respected Sheikh Ja'afar and the recriminations that followed. Enjoy.

Kano Govt Should Produce Killer Of Sheikh Ja’afar – Ado Mohammed

For the first time since his arrest and subsequent release for an alleged complicity in the murder of a famous Kano-based cleric, Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmoud Adam, Alhaji Ado Mohammed, the Executive Vice-Chairman of the Kano-based independent radio station, Freedom Radio, opens up on his ordeals. He tells LEADERSHIP correspondent ABDULAZIZ A. ABDULAZIZ his own side of the story as he responds to questions on criticism of the programmes of the radio station and his hitherto cordial relationship with Governor Ibrahim Shekarau.

Can you tell us what prompted the idea of establishing Freedom Radio?

A friend of mine who was, and still is, working with the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission drew my attention to the fact that private licenses were being granted. But even before then, I had been buying second-hand equipments and I have been working with Engineer Dahiru Ibrahim, as my adviser, in my aspiration to establish a television station. Then came this employee of NBC, who guided me on how to apply for the private broadcasting license.

We applied for the radio broadcasting license and, six months later, we applied for a television broadcasting license. And it took us six and a half years pursuing it before we were granted the radio broadcasting license. This was how we came to be the first indigenous private broadcasting organisation up in the northern states.

Of course, even before we established, Ray Power had been here but this (Freedom) is the first radio station by somebody from the north of the River Niger other than probably the Elwa, belonging to the Christian Association of Nigeria broadcasting from somewhere.

What of the TV license which you also applied for?

We are still pursuing the TV license. Any day the NBC gives us, we will accept it. It is like extending our coverage to Abuja. We are still pursuing the license to go to Abuja, being the nation's capital, and we have seen so many other stations, especially those operating from the south. From the north we are not many, so little wonder if none of the others has been trying; but we have been pursuing this Abuja license for almost four years now but it's still not with us. But we hope we will get it soon, so (that) we will extend our presence to Abuja.

To what extent did you record success for the past five years that the station has been in existence?

Oh, Alhamdu lillah! With all sense of humility, being the first we made it such that we would be able to hit as many locations as possible. We bought a 10-kilowatt transmitter and a 400-feet mast that could cover about 200 kilometers. This made it possible to reach up to Damagaram and Maradi in Niger Republic, as well as Katsina. I travelled to Sokoto and monitored it up to Talatar Mafara. In fact, through Niger I was monitoring from Maradi until we got near Konni, which is like overhead Sokoto, we were monitoring it in a car, which is different from the normal small radio set people use.

Also, we were reaching somewhere around Potiskum, Yobe State. Our signals reach up to Hadejia in Jigawa State but because Hadejia is in a depression, about 130m below the altitude of Kano, the signals reach Hadejia but because they are FM signals that do not bend, you may not get it until you use an aerial.

We reached Zaria. In fact, up till now during the rainy season or Harmattan when the signals travel very far, we are monitored in Kaduna. and there was time I was monitoring, I heard some people participating in a phone-in programme from Minna in Niger State and another person, though not audibly clear, calling in from Abuja.

Beside that, we broadcast in about eleven languages, English, French, Arabic being the foreign languages. The rest are local Nigerian languages: Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Kanuri, Fulfulde, Ebra, Igala, et cetera.

We have touched the lives of so many people. We were projected to start with about 40 people when we were on the drawing board; now we have over 260 employees.

About 60 per cent of our airtime is dedicated to Hausa language, that is because our listeners are predominantly in the Hausa territory. For the private outfits that monitor our transmission for advert agencies, we were told that we command 80 per cent of the listenership in our area of coverage. We must have been doing reasonably well to the expectation of our listeners for them to keep listening to our station. We thank God for that, it is not our making, it's the help of Almighty Allah and we thanked Him for that.

Your station has often come under criticism for what some people see as its anti-government policies. Why is it so?

There is nothing anti-government. We carry out programmes for anybody. By our licensing we are supposed to give fair hearing to everybody, we have to balance. We are not like the state government stations where they can decide to go one way and nobody can bring them back. We are a private station, subjected to various kinds of sanctions if we default and the condition of our license is that we have to abide by fair hearing, a fair view and fair representation of all parties. Therefore, if you have to talk about this one, you have to talk about the other. It is there on record we carry programmes and jingles of all the tiers of government: federal, state and local governments who are from different parties.

We carry so many of Kano State government activities, which is ANPP, and we carry several programmes and jingles for Federal Government and its agencies here. Bauchi State patronises us. And if you have been monitoring our Ramadan programmes, the governor of Sokoto State and that of Zamfara are sponsoring programmes here. Kano State government officials are sponsoring programmes. So there is nothing like being anti-government. But, of course, if somebody hears us talking he would say we are anti-Federal Government and when we come to play Federal Government programmes it is like we are anti-Kano State Government, which is in the opposite camp of the Federal Government. There is nothing like (being) anti-government in our policies.

Can we have a glimpse into your relationship with late Sheikh Ja’afar Adam?

Sheikh Ja’afar was a friend and my malam. I drew inspiration from him. We were involved in the Shari’a advocacy deeply. The team of the malams was our guide. I was the leader of the independent Hisbah group, so I interacted with almost all the malams there. I was at home with all of them.

We fought for Shekarau to become the governor of Kano State. I am sure I will be in the upper 20 people who painstakingly put whatever we had to fight and, alhamdu lillah, Allah gave us success, he became the governor because we wanted him to implement the Sharia.

You explained how through the pro-Sharia group you sponsored the candidacy of Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, but people would wonder how your relationship deteriorated to a sour one.

Well, really, there is only one issue. First of all, I am older than Malam Ibrahim Shekarau. We were not born in the same location. We did not go to the same school. We did not live in the same area. Therefore, whatever kind of relationship that can emanate between two people never connected me with him. In fact, it was only when the Sharia movement started that I came to know Shekarau personally.

I had been hearing his name but there was nothing that brought us together; he was a teacher, while I had been a banker and a businessman, so even in the business world, we were far apart. Therefore, there was nothing that could bring me and him.

It was only the issue of the Sharia. When we found out he was not really keen on implementing the Sharia, this was what made us to withdraw from the government. But I was in the Sharia Implementation Advisory Committee, which the government appointed in the first place. However, when we realised that he wasn’t really keen on implementing the Sharia as he promised in his campaigns, we decided to withdraw. This was the only reason.

But some from inside the government say you drew a line between you and the governor when he kicked against your choice to be the leader of the government-constituted Hisbah Board.

No, there was nothing like that. In fact, one evening my deputy in the independent Hisbah called me. I had even retired to bed. He said there was an emergency meeting at Malam Umar Sani Fagge’s house. I asked what the meeting was about. He said he (Fagge), being the chairman of the Sharia movement, said there was need for us to meet that night and he said I should inform three other people with whom we were in the board of independent Hisbah. We had just parted about an hour so, I tried their telephones but I could not reach them, so I just went to Malam Umar Sani Fagge’s house.

When we gathered -- Umar Sani Fagge, Rabo was there, then Malam Yahaya Faruk came. The four of us waited but nobody came, so we started the meeting. Malam Umar Sani said the governor wanted us to advise him on who and who would be members of the Sharia Commission, the Zakat Commission and the Hisbah Board.

He gave us the criteria for the position of the secretary to the Hisbah Board; he must be a lawyer with at least five years post-call experience and he must have some knowledge of the Sharia law and Arabic. Unanimously, we agreed that that should be Mahboub.

Then it came to the commander of the Hisbah. I said, no, if he wanted to be fair to us, like he gave us this criteria, then we should also get criteria for the commander'; I didn’t want to look stupid to name somebody and they would later say he was not qualified. If the committee was really taken serious, we should have some criteria also so that from the rank and file we would be able to determine who became what in the Hisbah because Rabo and myself operated the Hisbah more than anybody else in the Sharia movement so we knew who should go where. They insisted, and a number of names were juggled, but at the end of the day they decided who they wanted to appoint.

At the meeting, Malam Umar Sani particularly said, "If we should be realistic, you should be the commander." I declined. He said, "Why?" I told him, "Look, I have not organised my office to appoint a successor, I cannot do it." Simple as that. Then they brought in one person. I said, "No, let's not look ridiculous. If there is anybody after me, if I want to be selfish, see Rabo here, he should be the commandant-general. Don’t bring selfish interest that will destroy all the good work we have done so far."

At the end of the day, they conveyed the information. I don’t know what they took to him (the governor), but some days later it was announced that I was going to be the second in command in the Hisbah. By then the Freedom Radio had been established and I had the first meeting with the editorial board that same day. I did not know they were going to swear in any other person. They kept calling me. I said, "Look, I told them I don’t want, so there is no point calling me to say come. I am not coming because I have some other serious business, too." Eventually, they decided to appoint Rabo as the second in command in the Hisbah. This was how it all went.

Sir, recently, out of the blues there emerged a petition that led to your arrest and detention by the police in connection with an alleged forgery which was linked to the assassination of Sheikh Ja’afar Adam. May we have your own side of the story?

It was one Friday morning, around the hours of 7:30, some police officers came to my house with their car parked outside and my house is the dead-end of a street; it is a close. My son, who was leaving next door, saw this car. He was a bit security-conscious, and he came to find out because he saw somebody entering my house and the car was parked outside. He asked the man. I was then having a shave. The man said he was not with the car people, so he went out and started making trouble.

By then they had finished shaving me. The man came to say he was a police man and they were together with his boss. I questioned him on why he concealed his identity, knowing well the security implication. I said, "If these guys shout and people out there came and started attacking you, are you going to shoot them?" Anyway, the matter was settled, then. They said they came to invite me to the police station, there was a complaint. I doubted them. I said, "Are you sure it is me?" They said, "Yes."

I said, "All right. Are you here to arrest me or are you here to invite me?" They said, "We are here to invite you." I said, "Are you going with me or am I going alone?" They said, "We are going with you." I said, "Then this is an arrest. Where is your arrest warrant?" They said there was none.

I agreed to go with them nonetheless. Then I asked, "Are you allowing me to change my cloth?" They said, "Yes, go and change." I went in and changed my gown and told my family that I had been invited to the police station, (that) there was some complaint against me. Nobody thought it was that magnitude of a complaint. So I went.

When we reached their office they brought a letter, handed it to me, and said, "This is the compliant, read." There was a covering letter and there was an attachment of a photocopy of a cheque. In the letter, which was bearing the office of the Secretary to the Kano State Government and signed by an officer, Permanent Secretary, REPA (Research, Evaluation and Political Affairs), the letter started: "I am directed…" There were two issues to inform the police, this letter was addressed to the police. "I am directed to report that some unknown persons went into the office of the Permanent Secretary, REPA, and stole a letterhead and forged a letter addressed to the commissioner that N100 million be released on the instruction of the governor to be paid to MESSRS NAIS BK. (copy attached)." This was one complain.

The second issue was also: "Here attached is a photocopy of a cheque of N100 million". The two had no relationship. This was paid to AK BAT; the last letter I could not fill it even in my statement to the police because it was blunt whether it is BATA, or BATO or BATI or whatever, but BAT was definitely there and eligible. They said, "You are expected to answer this." I said, "What is it about?" They said, "The cheque is from your company".

So I called my office manager, Nasiru, and directed him to go to the office and cross-check the cheque book of the FILAPS account on which the complaint was based. I said, "I want you to confirm, here is a photocopy of a cheque, with this account number and cheque number, can you confirm whether it is from our stock and it is our account?" He confirmed in the positive.

The cheque had N100 million on it, so I asked when was the last cheque we issued. He said, "It is ending with 7 and it was issued on April 6, 2007". So I said, "Do you know of any deposit of N100 million into our account?" He said, "No". I then directed him to go to the bank to request for our statement and bring it to me at the police station.

The two of us, Nasiru and myself, sign on our cheques. This cheque had only one signature and it did not correspond to either mine or Nasiru’s, so even from there the police knew all this was a ruse. The total credit turnover was below N4 million and we had stopped using this account two years earlier.

This particular cheque was issued one year after we had stopped using the account; it was dated April 3, 2008. Even from then the police knew it was all a ruse, but probably because this was a government and the government wanted me punished, that was why the police decided to go ahead pressing they were charging us.

I inferred in my statement that the BK NAIS had nothing to do with me, I didn’t know what was it. So the forgery of N100 million had nothing to do with me. This cheque might have been stolen from our chequebook and I didn’t know anything about it. The signatures did not correspond to that of any of us. We operate on a dual signature so since this was a forged cheque, under the banking laws, a forged cheque is not the mandate of a customer, as such, it will not be debited to his account. Besides, we stopped using this account one year ago, so it could not have been there and this cheque had still not gone to the bank until that day, that cheque had never been presented to the bank.

I made my statement and called my lawyer, who went through it and okayed it. The police here in Kano started going from one office to another without telling me what was the next action. The next thing, they called my lawyer and said, "This is more than just a forgery issue. The payee of this cheque is the man who killed Malam Ja’afar and because the case of Malam Ja’afar has been transferred to Abuja, that is why we are taking him to Abuja now."

There was nothing in my statement relating me to the issue of Malam Ja’afar. This was just a verbal information from the police and before I was given any chance to defend myself, I was conveyed to Abuja. Before we even left this town, according to the information I got later, the Kano State Radio had started airing that the killer of Sheikh Ja’afar had been caught, in my person. This was put on air intermittently, trying to incite the public to come and destroy Freedom Radio and our family members. Alhamdu lillah, none of these happened. People didn’t even believe them. In fact, there was a counter-effect on the government. Nothing has happened. I thank God for putting me on trial and making it easy.

What is the status of the case now?

The police say they are still investigating, that’s all.

Are you ready to take any action in order to clear your name and claim damages?


It was reported that your company actually lost three cheque leaves of the same account, one of which was used in the said petition. How come you missed those cheque leaves?

We later traced that three of our cheque leaves were torn. We did not know because we are no longer using the account. Until that day the police arrested me, we did not know that they had been stolen because we had stopped using the account. We are not using the cheque.

But a government official later came out to say that they got all those documents from somebody in Kaduna.

As far as I am concerned, our cheque leaves were stolen and the government took the cheque to the police. And since the police told me that this cheque was paid to the killer of Malam Ja’afar, this cheque can only be available from one of three sources: the issuer of the cheque, the person to whom it was issued or the bank in the event the cheque had been cashed; the bank became the custodian of the cheque. Obviously, the cheque never went to the bank, so it couldn’t have been from the bank, neither was it from us. Since the government brought the issue of this cheque, they know where the killer is. They should produce the killer because the government official on behalf of the Kano State government, and, I insist, on behalf of the Kano State government - because the letterhead of the office of the Secretary to the State Government was used to say "I am directed" and signed by Permanent Secretary, REPA.

So, it must have been an official compliant. Whoever says it is unofficial is deceiving himself; maybe he does not know the content but the letter is there with the police; if you can, go and check it out. If they wish, they can even give you a photocopy to publish.

What they are saying is that it was a kind of a move to blackmail the government that later bounced back…

(cuts in…) It bounced back to the government! The government should produce the killer of Malam Ja’afar. All these, like I narrated the story, the two things do not even tally. N100 million was forged from the government, made payable to BK NAIS, our cheque was stolen and N100 million payable to AK BATU or BATA was written. Where is the conformity? None! Only at the last minute, the police came to say, "Oh, this BATA man is the one who killed Malam Ja’afar, so we are taking you to Abuja."

So, if I am being accused, like Radio Kano and some dailies they invited to connive with them confirmed that I was the killer even before I was tried reported, then they should bring out the killer because the cheque was from the government. If the police will do justice to me, those people - the person who signed the letter and the person who directed him - should have been arrested because they should have been the first suspects.

Thursday, 6 August 2009


Shugaban Hukumar Hukunta 'Yan Fim ta Jihar Kano, Malam Abubakar Rabo, ya cika alkawarin sa na cewa sai ya d'aure daya daga cikin fitattun mawakan Kano, wato Malam Bashir Dandago. Domin kuwa a yau dai jami'an hukumar sun kama shi, sun gurfanar da shi a gaban kotun hukunta 'yan fim.

Haka kuma an kama wani matashi mai suna Kabir Maulana.

Laifin da ake tuhumar su da shi, shi ne: wai sun saki faifan wakar 'Tsangayar Kura' (mai dauke da wakar nan ta "Hasbunallahu" ) bayan hukuma ta hana sakin faifan a Kano.

A kotu, su Dandago sun ce, "Not guilty." To amma Alkali Mukhtar Ahmed, kamar yadda ya saba yi, ya hana belin su, ya tura su gidan yari. Ya ce a dawo ran Litinin a ci gaba da magana. Manufa ita ce, su ma dai sun yi zaman jarun.

Ga wadanda su ka saurari wakar "Hasbunallahu, " za su tuna da cewa akwai muryar Malam Bashir Dandago a ciki. To, da ma kaska ta na da haushin kifi.

Shi dai Dandago, ya yi fice ne a fagen wakokin yabon Manzon Allah (SAW), wato wakokin bege. A cikin 2009 ne aka ji muryar sa a wakar "Hasbunallahu, " wanda hakan ya kara wa wakar karfi da karsashi. A wata hira da ya yi da 'yan jarida kwanan baya, Dandago ya ce ya yi wakar ne domin ya taimaka wajen murkushe zaluncin da ake yi a Kano.

Kwanan nan kotun ta su "Asabe Murtala" ta daure jagaban wakar "Hasbunallahu, " wato Malam Aminuddeen Ladan Abubakar (ALA), a gidan yari. Za a ci gaba da shari'ar sa a makon gobe.

Majiya ta ce gurfanar da Rabo da 'yan fim su ka yi a ofishin 'yan sanda na Metro kwanan nan ya k'ara hayaka malamin, har ya sha alwashin yin ramuwa.

Majiyar ta ce don haka dai kwanan nan hukumar za ta kama wasu mata daga cikin 'yan fim, musamman mawakan da ke cikin su. Sannan majiyar ta ce ana nan ana hak'on wani dan fim, tare da shan alwashin cewa a gidan yari zai yi azumin Ramadan.

"Zalunci ba zai dore ba" - Maryam A. Baba, a wakar "Rabo, Rabo"

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Ba gyara Rabo ya zo yi ba

A gaskiya, ko kadan ba da nufin gyaran harkar fim Malam Abubakar Rabo ya zo ba. Ya dai zo yin gyaran gangar Abzinawa ne - wato kid'an ganga da lauje! Abin da ya sa na fadi haka shi ne, kusan dukkan muhimman matakan da Rabo ya dauka a kan wannan harkar, ya dauke su ne da nufin durkusar da harkar. Ga hujjoji na:

1. Tun daga ranar farko ta kama aikin sa, ya dukufa wajen b'ata sunan 'yan fim. Ba wai a yau ya fara ba.

2. Duk wasu shawarwari nagari da 'yan fim din da sauran jama'ar gari su ka ba shi na yin gyaran da ya dace, bai dauka ba.

3. Duk wani zaman shawara da 'yan fim su ka yi da shi, aka zartar da shawarwari, bai taba aiwatar da ko daya ba; sai ma ya rika yi masu yankan baya bayan an tashi daga zaman.

4. Rabo ya zagaya jihohin Arewa da dama inda ya bukaci magabatan jihohin da su zartar da kudirorin hana yin sana'ar fim.

5. A kan d'an k'aramin laifi, Rabo ba ya tausaya wa d'an fim, sai kurum ya sa a kulle shi ko kuma kotu ta yi masa babbar tara.

6. Ya sa an kulle 'yan fim din da ba su aikata laifin komai ba, musamman Hamisu Iyan-Tama, don kurum ya fashe wani haushi nasa na son rai.

7. Har yau bai karbo wani agajin kudi daga gwamnati ya raba wa 'yan fim ba don inganta sana'ar su ko kuma ci gaba da yin sana'ar.

8. Ya dauki masu shawara tagari a matsayin abokan adawa ko ma abokan gaba, duk da yake su ba hakan su ka dauke shi ba.

9. Ba ya yarda ya tafi tare da masu ba shi shawara, sai 'yan kore wadanda ke gaya masa abin da kunnen sa ya ke so ya ji.

10. A kullum kokarin sa shi ne ya gano hanyar da zai bi ya nakasa 'yan fim da sana'ar su, ba hanyar da zai taimaka masu su ci gaba ba.

11. Duk wata bita da ya shirya da nufin wai gyaran fim, idan ka duba da kyau sai ka ga da biyu aka yi, ba wai an yi ba ne don gyara sana'ar. Domin ko su wadanda ake zaba su shiga bitar, sai an tsamo 'yan kore, 'yan a-bi-Yarima- a-sha-kida, sannan a yi da su.

12. Yau shekarar Rabo biyu a kan mulkin, me ya kulla na kawo gyara?

Police Arrest Kano Censors Board DG

By Nasir Gwangwazo, Kano

Director-General of the Kano State Censorship Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem, was yesterday arrested by the police over a complaint filed against him by the Kano State Filmmakers Association.

A reliable source told LEADERSHIP last night that Rabo had been dragged to a Sharia Court in Sabon Gari, Kano, by members of the association over an allegation credited to him, in which he was said to have described movie makers as a bunch of homosexuals and lesbians during an interview he granted Radio Kano recently.

In the interview, a copy of which was made available to LEADERSHIP, Rabo stated that he had proof that many of the filmmakers were gay, saying his intervention in the industry had helped sanitise the situation.

The statement incensed the filmmakers, and they wrote him a letter demanding a retraction and an apology within 48 hours.

But at a follow-up press conference recently in Kano, the director-general repeated his claim, warning that he would publish more damning reports about the alleged immorality in the industry if pressed further.

The association went ahead with its threat, suing him before the Sharia court, which was said to have advised the association to report the matter to the police first.
According to a member of the association and the immediate former chairman of the state chapter of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Malam Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino, Rabo was picked up yesterday by two plain-clothes policemen at about 4pm and taken to the Metro police station located on Bank Road in the city, following a complaint by the filmmakers.

At the police station, three leaders of the moviemaking association - Nura Hussain, Ahmad Alkanawy and Isma’ila Afakalla - endorsed the association's formal complaint, which Rabo reportedly denied.

According to Gidan Dabino, the case is due for hearing at the Sharia Court, Fagge, today.

When our correspondent contacted Rabo on phone last night, however, he denied knowledge of the issue, saying he was in a meeting and promptly switched off.

Published in LEADERSHIP today

Friday, 31 July 2009

Taliban Leader Mohammed Yusuf - Portrait

By Ibrahim Sheme

The leader of the Boko Haram sect, Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf, was born on January 29, 1970 in Girgir village, Jakusko Local Government Area of Yobe State.

Not much is known about his educational pursuit.

In 2002, the 39-year-old self-proclaimed Islamic scholar founded the group that would eventually become known as Boko Haram, meaning "Western education is sinful" in the Hausa language; the group operated from its Maiduguri base under various sobriquets. It consistently showed aversion to 'boko' or western education.

Yusuf made a name for himself preaching against western education and consistently argued that the current system in Nigeria, symbolised by government, needed to be overthrown and replaced with an extreme version of Islamic law. Yusuf was also averse to other Muslims who disagreed with his methods and beliefs. He was soon regarded as an oddity by the rest of Muslims.

Nonetheless, he was able to attract huge numbers of followers from among the youths in many states of northern Nigeria, including Yobe, Bauchi, Kano, Katsina and Kaduna.

Contrary to the widely-held belief that Yusuf did not believe in Prophet Muhammad (SAW), he demonstrated that belief in his preaching, where he quoted from the sayings of the prophet to support his points.

And contrary to the thinking that he was a university graduate or drop-out, Mohammed Yusuf admitted, during a 2006 canonical debate with a Bauchi-based cleric and university lecturer, Malam Isah Aliyu Fantami, that he had never attended a western-type school.

In the debate, a DVD of which I obtained yesterday, the late Yusuf defended his group's position hotly, citing sources from Islamic history and jurisprudence, as well as from western science, making reference to the theory of evolution and giving off-hand examples from the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

But it was obvious from the debate that his theories were faulty and easily debunked by his opponent.

En-route Brazil on a state visit early this week, President Umaru Yar'Adua revealed, to the surprise of many, that the Nigerian security agencies had been tracking the Boko Haram sect for several years, describing its members as a "potentially dangerous group" who have been gathering weapons and intelligence to try to force their views on Nigerians.

On November 13, 2008, Yusuf and some of his followers were arrested by the police for public incitement through preaching and were brought to Abuja for trial. A High Court judge in the federal capital granted them bail on January 20, this year, after they were handed over to the police for prosecution.

The stage, it seemed, was set for a showdown between Yusuf's group and security forces, especially on June 11, when police officers in Maiduguri fired on a funeral procession by Boko Haram, shooting 17. Yusuf, denouncing the shootings, vowed to take revenge.

During a joint press conference in Abuja yesterday, defence spokesman Colonel Mohammed Yarima described the Boko Haram leader as a motivational character who had four wives and 12 children.

He said the operation to catch Yusuf was already well under way. "We have his picture, we have his details and the long arm of the law will catch up with him," he vowed.

That promise was fulfilled last night when security forces captured and killed Mohammed Yusuf in Maiduguri, thus ending an era in the short but bloody history of the sect he commanded.

Published in LEADERSHIP today

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Mohammed Yusuf - Nigerian Taliban Leader

This is a photograph of Mohammed Yusuf, leader of the pro-Taliban group called Boko Haram, based in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Yusuf, 39, was killed today by Nigerian security forces after days of bloodshed. I got it from a video of a debate between Yusuf and another cleric on the pros and cons of western-type education, which Yusuf opposed.

Expect a profile of Yusuf later.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Nigeria needs radical action to bring its oil crisis to an end-FT

Written by William Wallis

Wednesday, 29 July 2009 08:24

Militants in Nigeria's oil-producing Niger delta have been tapping pipelines and illegally exporting crude for the best part of a decade. Their activities have grown into a multi-billion dollar racket with tentacles reaching far into state institutions and criminal connections that stretch from Abidjan to Odessa.

Now, inhabitants of the delta have started processing crude. In small, modular refineries they are producing kerosene and other fuel and selling to the local market from so-called mushroom enterprises in the creeks and swamps.

In the context of an industry in precipitous decline, beset by a campaign of sabotage and a crisis in funding, this might seem a detail. It is indicative, however, of fast eroding state authority and the failure of government to regain control of a resource on which the nation's development depends.

It is not quite business as usual in Nigeria. Far from leading an African economic renaissance, the country from which one in five black Africans hail is hovering close to the brink. Nigerians have lost faith in the ability of President Umaru Yar'Adua's government to govern in their interests.

One manifestation of this has emerged this week in the north of the country where security forces are battling followers of an Islamist sect that has thrived on poverty and despair. Another is the slump in oil production.

Nigeria should be producing upwards of 3m barrels a day, contributing to global energy security and using its gas reserves to power an industrial revolution at home. Instead, it is Angola, with a third of the reserves, that has taken over as Africa's leading oil producer.

Nigeria's oil industry has been crippled by a campaign of theft conducted by militants demanding, and increasingly taking, a greater share of oil wealth. Amidst uncertainty over broader policy, fresh exploration has ground to a halt.

Not since the late 1960s has onshore output fallen so low. Nigeria is exporting less than half the crude it did in 2008 by some estimates and selling at about half the price. Moreover, most production is now offshore where the state has far less lucrative terms.

There is one school of thought that sees Nigeria consistently muddling through such crises. Its political leaders often approach the brink but step back to close ranks when under sufficient pressure. But Nigeria's ability to muddle through has depended to a great extent on oil and on the patronage system it spawned and which has glued elites together.

That system has long since reached its sell-by date. It is matched now by parallel criminal networks, such as those exporting oil illegally, which are eating away at the state.

With oil production in decline, the funds with which government could create a system in which power stations and refineries function, businesses thrive and services are delivered, are in dwindling supply.

Mr Yar'Adua has two plans on the table to bring them back. The first is legislation - in parliament this week - which promises transformation of the oil business. This would break up the corrupt state company into commercial ventures able to raise funding on the market, open transactions up to public scrutiny and deliver better terms for the state through contract renegotiation.

The western oil majors don't like the change because it would make operating in Nigeria more expensive and foster competition from China.

Furthermore, inhabitants of the Niger delta are not impressed and are threatening to scupper the president's second plan: an amnesty for delta militants with daily stipends to persuade them to lay down their arms. This might bring a pause in the violence. But a far more ambitious approach is needed if the Niger delta is to be persuaded of the federal government's good intentions.

One way would be to devote a percentage of any oil output recovered from current lows into a fund for the development of the region. This would give its long-suffering inhabitants a stake in the renaissance of the oil industry. Radical plans, although needed, are unlikely to fly. A few, powerful Nigerians profit from the status quo. Even as it becomes less and less viable, they are clinging on.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Nollywood Sans Kannywood

I think when the world (or even Nigerian federal officials) talk about Nollywood, they are not thinking about the Hausa film industry, a.k.a. Kannywood. Nollywood is simply the Nigerian movie industry WITHOUT its Hausa component. Surprisingly, Nollywood includes the Igbo and Yoruba productions. The question is: why are Hausa movies not included? In my view, it has to do with the fact that federal officials working in the culture sector - Ministry of Information and its parastatals such as the National Film and Videos Censors Board and the Nigerian Film Corporation - hardly remember Kannywood when they are designing policies. Until in recent years, they scarcely included Kannywood stakeholders in their programmes.

Of course, things have been changing in recent years. Kannywood stakeholders have been making an in-road into the federal culture sector - participating in film festivals, awards and meetings. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go before we get THERE, largely due to the dominance of non-Northerners in the sector and in the mainstream mass media. If you take a look at the entertainment pages of Nigerian newspapers where news and gossip about the Nigerian movie world are told, you will hardly see anything being said about Kannywood. That is, with the exception of northern papers like Leadership, Trust, New Nigerian and Triumph.

The senseless attacks on Kannywood operators by officials of the Kano State Censorship Board in the bogus name of sanitising the industry appears to have taken Kannywood back in reckoning. That's the actual target of the censors. But theirs is a futile exercise because only a dimwit will presuppose that a censorship regime can destroy the progress of the new information technologies, of which movies are a significant part.

This is more so in a democracy, which has a preset tenure. As the Hausa say, "Zalunci ba ya karewa!"

Thursday, 9 July 2009

ALA: Korafin Marubuta Mata

A yau din nan marubuta biyu mata sun yi magana kan tsare Amiunu Ala da aka yi. Ta farkon su ita ce fitacciyar marubuciyar nan Rahma A. Majid (wadda hoton ta yake kan shafin nan) sai kuma Malama Maryam Ali Ali, wadda ita ce sakatariyar kudi ta Kungiyar Marubuta ta Nijeriya (ANA). Sun yi magana ne a Majalisar Marubuta ta Yahoogroups. Ga abin da su ke cewa:


"Lokaci ya yi da zamu hada karfi da karfe ta kowane sashi na adabi mu yaki gwamnatin
zalunci da manufofin ta. Kullun sai sharhi muke kan abinda muka rigaya muka sani kan manufofin hukumar zaluncin amma mun kasa jajircewa mu yi aiki kai tsaye. An kafa hukumar tace-tace domin ta tato duk wanda zai yi amfani da ganga, majigi, ko alkalami ya tona asirin manufofin ta na murdiya. Na jima da aka sinsina min haka tun a lokacin da ba a kafa hukumar karara ba inda wasu masu daure da irin zanin ta suka yi ikirari a jaridar New Nigeira cewa sun ba ni tallafin karatu sanda nake jami'a da sunan littafi na bai dace da fiqihu ba(don tsananin jahilcin kasa bambance shara'a, adabi da fiqihu). Amma a wancan lokacin Rahma wadda take bakuwa bata sami wanda ya tayata hangen abinda zai faru a yau ba har sai da yayi nisa.

"To! Ko a yanzu in an mike ba a yi laifi ba. Kira daya da zan yi na neman hadin kan uudabaĆ¹ shine a yi wa Allah a yi wa adabi, kada a bar wannan fafitika ta zamo ta neman a saki Ala kawai. Don Allah ko da an wanke shi mu katange junan mu baki daya daga sabon cin fuska da dauki-dai-dai da wannan hukuma ke mana a sanadiyyar son girma, ko neman gindin zama ko rashin hadin kai, ko hassadar mu ta tsaga wa kadangare bango.

"Hakika a watan Nov. insha Allahu na shirya dawowa majalisa with full force, amma saukar da wannan sako ya yi a gadon bayan zuciya ta ya sa dole na karya doka ta."

"A gaskiya yadda Ala ya bauta ma wannan gwamnatin da baiwar sa, abin ya zama abin
tsoro in har za a yi mai haka, to lallai kam, abin da razanarwa, kowa ma ya shafa
ma kansa da gemun sa ruwa."

Aminu Ala released, but...

Hausa singer and novelist Aminuddeen Ladan Abubakar (ALA) was released on bail by the "mobile" court in Kano today. I told you about him yesterday.

The case was adjourned to July 20.

But there's a caveat. Ala was barred from granting interviews to local and international media - clearly a desperate attempt to muzzle his freedom of expression and the freedom of the press on the issue. The court ruled that his bail would be thwarted if he does so.

This case has generated a lot of heat in Nigeria. The Association of Nigerian Authors has condemned it, so also a wide spectrum of analysts who see the issue as an injustice against a man of letters who has contributed positively to Hausa culture.

I feel that Ala will not be silenced by the Kano State Censorship Board through the use of its draconian court instrument. More songs are expected to come from his pen.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Abubakar Imam: My Personal Odyssey

This piece was written last night on the occasion of the one-day colloquim being organised today in Kaduna by the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA)

In 2008, Alhaji Abubakar Imam’s best known literary work, Magana Jari Ce, clocked 80 years of publication. That year (Thursday, June 19 to be exact) the sage himself clocked 27 years in death. At that time, all one could hear among the Nigerian literati was the well-deserved hubbub over the 50th anniversary of the publication of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Just as I savoured the joy of having one of Africa’s leading works clocking 50 years in print, moreso with its writer being well and alive, I also agonised over the sad neglect of Imam’s attainment on the literary field even by those who should be holding his banner aloft.

This kind of neglect had pained me for ages. On a Saturday in 2004, I had published an opinion in my literary column in the Weekly Trust, ‘Bookshelf,’ which was a rework of a piece I had earlier written in Majalisar Marubuta (Writers’ Forum), a listserve in Yahoogroups. In it, I lamented that the late Imam had not been suffiently honoured by the northern intelligentsia in terms of doing things that could immortalise him. My hunch was that with the modern information technologies, especially the internet, a lot could be done to sell this unique genius to the world and put him permanently on the global map of information dissemination.

To prove the point, I told of a story about my attempt to compare my own humble exposure to the worldwide web to that of Imam, using Google. I had typed and clicked on the words “Abubakar Imam” in order to see the number of entries available on the grandfather of modern Hausa literature on the net’s most popular and reliable search engine. I then entered my names. Disappointingly, I beat Imam by a ratio of 9:1. And who was I, a mere shrub, on the field of Hausa literature compared to a poplar like Imam? There are quite a number of other yardsticks one could use, of course, in gauging Imam’s pre-eminence on our collective psyche. But the truth was that Imam wasn’t on the map.

Imam should have been celebrated by writers, academics, journalists, politicians, businessmen and the commoners, especially those of northern extraction, because he had worked for all of them during his lifetime. Others were, indeed, members of his family.

Imam was born in Kagara in the present day Niger State in 1911. Nigerlites could claim him as their own, but Imam was a man of many climes. His roots were in Borno. His great-grandfather had migrated to Sokoto during the Jihad era. I could claim him to be mine, because he was raised by his elder brother in Katsina. The brother, Alhaji Bello Kagara, was a member of the Katsina royalty, having served as the Wali of Katsina. Imam was educated in Katsina and grew up there. Imam was a school teacher there. He was also discovered there by the Briton, Rupert M. East, following the first Hausa literary competition in 1933, which Imam won.

The people of Zaria could claim him as their own, and they did so more than anyone else. Imam spent the longest period of his life in Zaria. He first went there in order to write books under Dr East’s tutelage. Subsequently he continued to live there - writing books, working as editor of Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo newspaper, engaging in politics and religious activities, and raising family. By the time of his death on Friday, June 19, 1981 in Zaria, he had become a complete Zaria man. He was survived by a wife, 14 children and 42 grandchildren.

His impact on Hausa literature is still felt today. Many a writer aspires to write like him. There have been many attempts to be like him, in terms of linguistic craftsmanship and title output, but none has successfully worked. Reasons abound: we live in a different world, under a different intellectual and moral clime. Politics, the economy, exposure to values, everything, have changed. Nonetheless, many of the attempts to be like Imam were heroic. They have ensured that Hausa remains the most fecund indigenous language in our country. Its culture is strong. Its communication channels have been modernised, but they are yet to lose their pristine colorations completely.

This morning, Imam is going to be celebrated in Kaduna, courtsey of the Association of Nigerian Authors under the able leadership of Dr Wale Okediran. The ANA executive council has said that the campaign I waged in the media and on the internet was responsible for its decision to organise this colloquim. It’s not only an honour for Imam, therefore, but the honour is also mine.

Imam’s family have done their best to help immortalise their father and grandfather. A few years ago I was involved with their efforts to establish the Abubakar Imam Centre in Zaria, a kind of personal museum of his work. Dr Haroun Adamu also funded the setting up of one of my proposals - the Imam website: www.abubakarimam.com. Malam Dalhat has just completed a Hausa translation of Abubakar Imam Memoirs. But a lot needs to be done.

Sadly, today’s event is coming just when some pretenders to a certain moral crusade are jailing writers, moviemakers and other artistes in Kano. This morning, a Hausa novelist, Aminuddeen Ladan Abubakar (ALA) has been in jail for two days, having been sent there by a mobile court working for the Kano State Censorship Board. His offence: the alleged release of a song (one of the best Hausa songs this century!) which lampoons the evil regime of censorship in Kano. (More on this later)

All persons of conscience should use the occasion of this colloquiem to not only celebrate Imam’s incredible attainments but also to ruminate on the war against the arts going on in Kano. This event would be worthless if in celebrating our grandfather we forget or refuse to lament the persecution of his grandsons and grand-daughters.

•This piece was published today in LEADERSHIP under the heading: "Abubakar Imam: My Personal Odyssey"

Kano Censorship: Aminu Ala Arrested, Jailed

It has been two days now since a popular Hausa novelist and singer, Aminuddeen Ladan Abubakar (ALA), was sent to prison by a mobile court which works for the Kano State Censorship Board, in Kano. The writer/singer best known simply as Ala (after his initials) was arrested by the police on Saturday night in Kano after he had closed from work at Hikima Multimedia. He was, however, released on bail at the police station, on the pldege that he would attend court on Monday. He was not told what his offence was, but not everybody was left guessing.

Ala had composed a song, "Hasbunallah," with four other singers, in which they lampoon the regime of censorship in Kano. Moviemakers, singers and writers must submit their works to the censorship board for vetting. Though Ala had not released the "offensive" song, it had found its way into people's GSM handsets and computers, from where it was replicated into other forms of media.

Recently, the police and opratives of the censors board had swooped on Hikima Multimedia, looking for evidence that would link Ala to the release of the song. Consequently, Ala went into hiding; he was said to have gone to the neighbouring states. Two weeks ago, he returned home. And the censors attacked.

During the sitting in court, Ala pleaded not guilty. He was promptly sent to jail by a magistrate, Mukhtar Ahmed, notorious for jailing and or fining anyone that was brought before him under any kind of charge.

Writers and moviemakers, as well as millions of their admirers are livid with rage. Many view the arrest and detention of Ala as an attack against freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution. It is felt by a wide spectrum of the populace that Ala is innocent. Like Hamisu Iyan-Tama, an actor/producer jailed for months by the same court, he did not release the song. Even if he did, it does not contain anything negative as to warrant an arrest. The case is gaining a lot of attention in the media, in internet chatgroups, and other fora.

Ala is due to be returned to court today to hear his application for bail. But I was told by a close associate of his that the prison authorities in Kano have revealed that a separate order from the court had said that the accused would be held till Tuesday next week. That would be against the pronouncement of the judge in the open court on Tuesday.

Yesterday, the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Kano State branch, issued a statement on the matter. It goes like this:

Press Release

At an emergency meeting held at the Bayero University Kano, today, July 8, 2009, the Association of Nigerian Authors Kano State Branch frowns at the arrest of one of its members Alhaji Aminuddeen Ladan Abubakar (ALA) over the alleged release of a song that has not been censored by the Kano State Censorship Board.

The Association is seriously looking at the implication of the arrest which is seen as an attack on liberty and freedom of expression. The Association has observed that the authorities in Kano are hostile to art and literature. This action and other past actions of the authorities are seriously undermining the position of Kano State as the leading centre of learning, art and literature.

The Association wishes to advise the authority to be cautious on the way it handles the matters of authors and other producers of art. Art and literature are part and parcel of every society and no society can do without it.

Yours faithfully,

Dr. Yusuf M Adamu
Branch Chairman

Alh. Balarabe Sango II
Public Relations Officer

July 8, 2009

Monday, 22 June 2009

Interview: Rabo, Hausa Movie Chief Censor

The following interesting write-up/interview was posted by Salisu Ahmed Koki on the listserves "writersforumkano@yahoogroups.com" and "nurul-islam@yahoogroups.com" today.

Much can be gleaned from the interview about the director-general of the Kano State Censorship Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim. The title given to the piece by Koki is "Hausa Home Video Industry AND the Rabo Abdulkareem Phenomenon (The Exclusive Interview with Rabo Abdulkareem)". The piece contains some grammatical and typographical errors, which I have not corrected. Enjoy

Hausa Home Video Industry AND the Rabo Abdulkareem Phenomenon (The Exclusive Interview with Rabo Abdulkareem)

By Salisu Ahmed Koki, Kano
sakoki@gmail. com

It is an industry that churns out roughly over 2000 sellable movies to the world annually; employing over 20, 000 hitherto unemployed youths and sometimes exports to the world the once ruined face of Nigeria. But turn the clock back to the years between 1975 and 1995 and the picture would have been different, very different, for that was the long, trying period when Hausa movie industry was struggling to establish itself as a viable showbiz hub equal in prestige and whim only to Bollywood that overshadowed the northern axis, then.

And just like the tiny and equally soullessly-wrapped up pupae growing into a beautifully designed and flip-flying butterfly that can fly to various destinations at will, the Hausa popular drama has transmogrified into Home Videos that evenly instigates cultural fusion and diffusion whose implications and impact on the Hausa culture critics posits is an area yet to be fully appreciated by researchers.

Indeed, the Hausa Home Video industry is now an unstoppable phenomenon that serves as a medium exploited by NGOs and various governments to relay informatic messages to children and adults. To say the least about the interest shown by most NGOs and even Diplomatic missions within and around Nigeria on Hausa Movies, it pays to say here and now that it was alleged that the arrest and detention of one of the popular Hausa movie Producer going by the name Hamisu Lamido Iyantama couldn't be unconnected to his allegedly unauthorized release of a NGO-sponsored Hausa film.

The fact that almost 40 million people around the world use the Hausa language medium to communicate and transact gave these movie makers an unprecedented opportunity to reach out to the world.

But of recent there has been a widespread complains about the modus operandi of the Hausa Movie makers most of which are accused of indulging in entertaining misplaced priorities, movie-making wise. They are said to be employing unorthodox, unprofessional and fluke-characterized techniques and methodologies in writing, acting and shooting their now widely condemned movies. The pomp and pageantry of films produced in the Lagos axis are more pronounced on Pay TV Channels like Africa Magic than that of their counterparts in northern Nigeria obviously because of the absence of quality and catchy storylines in them, although some of the Hausa movies are beginning to find their ways into the sister Magic Channel, the Africa Magic Plus.

Most of the Hausa film makers are accused of distorting the closely guarded Hausa culture which by all indications served as the sole excuse ceased by the present administration in Kano State to take stringent majors in curbing the excesses of this so-called rogue Hausa film makers. There has been an almost general consensus that Hausa movies shot some 20 years ago and far aback are far better in substance and content than the present day Hausa movies which explain why many are of the opinion that there has to be some check and balances as far as Hausa movie making is concerned.

In ripping apart the genesis of the Hausa Home Video Industry popularly tagged ‘Kanywood’ one can hardly do away with two factors; one is the Colonial Film Unit factor that gave birth to some of the first produced feature films on celluloid made in Hausa and the other factor been that of the Hausa society which is theatre personified like any other society. As put forward by Haruna Aminu of the Institute of Education, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the Hausa society is so theatre personified so much that “in every aspect of the Hausa living tradition, one finds various manifestation of the dramatic indices, and this come in different forms due to the nature of the occasion that produces it. When one takes into consideration the idea of celebrating birth and death one can appreciate the impact of entertainment and imitation of life”.

Through the introduction of cinema or ‘Majigi’ as it is called in Hausa into the north via the Colonial Film Unit, the Nigerian colonial masters were given a sure medium for using the concept of ‘Massive Media Campaign’ to further their varying propaganda interests. Though a downside in some respect, it served as an upside for the Hausa movie industry as it served as a transiting medium from where traditional Hausa drama or ‘Wasan Kwaikwayo’ (‘wasa’ for ‘play’ and ‘kwaikwayo’ for ‘imitation’) have developed today into a full blown Hausa Movies/Films.

The first indigenous play ‘Wasan Marafa’ (the Marafa’s Play) by A.T Marafa made its appearance in 1949. Soon others followed, with the likes of ‘Malam Inkuntum’ (1954) and ‘Bora da Mowa’ (1972) as been the first to be staged before been reduced into writing. The first commercially successful Hausa movie was ‘Turmin Danya’ produced in 1990 in Kano selling about 100, 000 copies then and it was not until between 1997 and 2003 only that there was a massive surge in the production of these home videos. According to Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu, a very popular and widely respected Change Analysts, so far about 800 Hausa Language Video- about 80% produced in Kano have been registered with the National Film and Video Censors Board in 2003 only. “Such high volume in a relatively short period of time indicates an underlying cultural change and transformation that requires a systematized study” Professor Abdalla hypothesized.

Interestingly enough for the reader to know is the fact that Sir. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the slayed pioneer Prime Minister of Nigeria was among the opportune-few to first wrote a book in 1933 which was later translated into film. Again, one of Nigeria’s most renowned sociologist and the person adjudged by many to be Africa’s best in that field, Dr. Ibrahim Tahir (Talban Bauchi) of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria was the principal character in one of the pioneer Hausa films ‘Dan Arewa a London’ which if translated into English means ‘A Northerner in London’, a film that propagated the use of agriculture to propel growth. And with Adamu Halilu at the helm of affairs at the Colonial Film Unit in the early years of Nigeria’s life, some more Hausa feature films were produced among which are Baban Larai (1968), Shehu Umar (1976), and Kanta of Kebbi (1978) to mention but a few.

With most of the nations’ film regulatory agencies and some of the best public-owned film training institutions concentrated in the north, Hausa films and their makers were presented with a golden opportunity to propel themselves and attain success. Imagine, the National Film Corporation (NFC), National Film Institute (NFI), National Video Archives, National Film and Videos Censors Board (NFVCB), NTA TV College amongst others all are situated in and around Jos, the Plateau State capital. Also, with about 40 million Hausa speaking audiences spread across the entire African continent and beyond, filmmakers in the north have a great market potential; little wonder the rise among the Hausa filmmaking folks of some of Nigeria’s best in showbiz, the likes of Sadik Tafawa Balewa who Directed the winning feature ‘Kasar Mu Ce’, Sani Mu’azu who feature in many award winning films and TV series including Mr. Johnson (that featured the popular Hollywood actor, Pierce Brosnan) and NASCO-sponsored Riddles and Hope, Malam Abdulkareem Mohammed who Directed the film ‘Dan Adam Butulu I’, Dr. Sule Umar who directed the duos of ‘Maitatsine’ and yet-to-be released ‘General Murtala’, Ibrahim Buba who is the CEO of Newage Networks Kaduna and film stars Ali Nuhu the principal character in Amstel’s revered ‘Sitanda’ who won the coveted ‘Best Up Coming Actor Award’ at the AMAA Awards 2007, Sani Musa Danja, Ruqayya Dawayya, Safiya Musa, Ummi Zizi to mention but a few.

Considering the rising popularity and growth of Hausa films and its industry despite its prevailing complexities, controversies and allegedly unprofessional conjunction, a team of concerned practitioners and renowned academicians got together in the month of August 2003 to discuss the state of research on Hausa popular culture and media technologies, with particular reference to the Hausa home videos. It was an event chaired by the renowned Change Analyst, Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu of Bayero University Kano and was tagged ‘International Conference on Hausa Films’. The event was meant to be a brainstorming session with various inputs from members overshadowed then by the then current crisis in the non-marketability, and non-exportability of Hausa Home Videos beyond Hausa communities either in Nigeria or abroad. The event attracted scholars from close and afar including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Germany whom many considered an indication of the success recorded by the event.

Not long ago after sponsoring the International Conference cited earlier, the British Council Nigeria through its ‘Connecting Futures’ project gave 5 budding filmmakers first class training in filmmaking for two years, which culminated in the youth producing five winning short films. Also, the French Embassy in Nigeria in collaboration with Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN) it is that wholly sponsored a 4 day workshop on filmmaking in 2005, adding to the support the industry is now gaining from the international community.

The recent crackdown of filmmakers in the north particularly in Kano State by the authorities signaled a very interesting epoch in the history and relevance of this important industry in the north, and by extension in Nigeria.

Part of the symptoms of the alleged excesses of the present crop of Hausa filmmakers is said to be the almost uncontrollable pollution of the closely guarded and respected Hausa culture that leads to some female admirers of Hausa Filmmakers to publicly showcase their sexual orientation, meaning that some women did publicly declare that they are going to emulate Californians by getting married to each other publicly and fearlessly, an action viewed by many as a taboo. It is a story of awe and confusion and it is what can rightly be described as the most demeaning abuse of fame ever to bear its ugly head out of the now allegedly promiscuous Hausa film industry; a rare show of feminine crudity and a terrifying tale of rumpus manifestation of prevalent lesbianism that is eating deep into the fabrics of Kanywood. On 22nd April 2007 the most talk about religiously- tense Kano state witnessed yet another attempt by some group of people at tying the hands of people of the same sex into the bonds of marriage, only that in this case it wasn’t masculine gays but a fair-looking and pleasurably hot lady going by the name ‘Aunty Maiduguri’ getting married to four sanguine girls- a sure feminine polygamy you can call it!

The contentious act swiftly invited the wrath of Kano state government whom since expressed bitterly its skepticism over the activities of those operating in the film industry. For a start, the venue slated to host the four modish brides alongside their groom for a party which also happened to be an open theatre where plays were staged was demolished beyond recognition alongside two adjacent theatres on the instructions of the state governor Malam Ibrahim Shekarau with their Certificate of Occupancies and Operating Licenses all revoked. Soon followed an announcement that the government has sternly banned all forms of Gala and stage plays to be performed by men and women of the Hausa film industry, indefinitely! Then came the last, but expected one- order from the state government to the security agencies in the state to fish out and arrest ‘Aunty Maiduguri’ and her accomplices whom are already on the run.

Also, not long after the infamous Aunti Maiduguri Affair a video sex scandal involving one of the most popular Hausa actresses compelled the authorities to have a second thought on Hausa filmmaking and Hausa filmmakers not to mention a promiscuous music video released by one Adam Zango a background singer which leads to his detention for a prescribed period of time. What follows was a complete shutdown of filmmaking activities in Kano State for about a year now and the detention of the Hamisu Lamido Iyantama (a producer), Adam Zango (background singer), Rabilu Musa IBRO (a popular comedian) among others by Kano State Films and Videos Censors Board.

The leak of a sex video involving popular celebrities may prove a good omen to celebrities in the Western world, but from the harsh treatment received by the leak of the Hausa celebrity's sex video; it is obvious that the reverse is very true for celebrities in northern Nigeria.

Most of the stakeholders, especially the filmmakers, actors and actresses condemned the actions of the Kano State government alleging that it was the wrong decision for the government to take considering that most of the people, young and old that are having a means of livelihood via Hausa filmmaking process are rendered jobless and penniless by the government's action, worst they claimed, the government has failed to provide jobs for these people and has shown little interest in the Hausa filmmaking business which leads to its lackluster attitude towards Hausa filmmaking and Hausa Filmmakers.

In the midst of all these controversies this writer deemed it fit to get to the source of the matter and to achieve that he went all the way to interview the Director General of the Kano State Films and Videos Censors Board. The following is the outcome of our interview with Malam Rabo Abdulkareem which was initially meant for a national daily that requested for it but after reviewing the content and weighting the importance of the information embedded in it, I deemed it wise to distribute it via a medium that can allow for wider readership which is why the online platform is chosen.

A Brief on the Director General, Kano State Film and Video Censors Board.

Rabo Abdulkareem: Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem are my names, I am the Director General Kano State Censorship Board, I am 35 years old and hail from Chiromawa of Garun Malam Local Government of Kano State. Earlier before my appointment here, I was the Deputy Commander of the Kano State Hisbah Board, much earlier I was a school teacher but of course I have my first and second degree in humanities.

What Specialization or area of study to be a little specific?

R. A: My first degree has been in Mass Communications- Special Honors (Broadcast) and my second degree is in Developmental Studies all from Bayero University, here in Kano.

What little can you say authoritatively about the history of and rationale behind the setting up of Kano State Censorship Board?

R. A: Historically and globally censorship is not a new thing, and of course it is because of the need in every responsible society or community to have moral values been upheld and things done the right way to the taste of the uniqueness of the individual community or society that censorship is accorded a unique priority in the history of mankind, this is why you see Censorship Board in the history of the Greeks, you see it in the history of the Persian Empire, in that of Europe, and in that of the United States America in particular which emanates from the need to build a 'hays code'. Coming back to Africa, I believe as Africans revered as the custodians of some of the worlds' most treasured and respected cultures we cannot be an exception, most particularly in Nigeria going by our populous nature and standing in the world. Here in Kano, particularly in the year 2001, there was this law established by the State Assembly and accented to and endorsed by the then executive arm of the government of Kano State and of course what informed the decision of the then government to come up with the law was a confusion, or rather mix-up of cultural values which was largely attributed to foreign influence and the weird culture of blind copy-cating of foreign cultures by most of the Hausa filmmakers which results to public outcry in the 1999-2000 of then Kano, and of course that was how the then administration sanctioned activities of filmmakers in the state. In fact, most of the filmmakers were suspended and entire cinematographic activities were suspended, of course after that very suspension there was the idea of coming up with a regulatory body and that was how the Kano State government then came up with the present Kano State Censorship Board Law 2001. And the interesting thing was the power giving to the state governments in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria whereby state governments are regarded or rather are given the leverage to go ahead and establish their respective state Censorship Bodies on film making and other thearitical activities and section 16 of the 1999 constitution of the concurrent legislative list is the main bedrock which result to this very kind of state Censorship Board Law, meaning that what we are doing is in consonant with the constitution of the federal republic and of course in it we can see some virtues, we can also see some positive results out of what we have so far established, because at least, the social responsibility expected of a government in ensuring and above all the outcome and output of the film project is becoming this time around very professional in nature, ethical and of course there is quality, quality in the content and quality in the critique of what is churn out for the viewership of the general public. Being a federating unit here, we are empowered and we have every right to have a very unique mechanism of governance, to have our uniqueness and peculiarity very well accommodated and reflected in the way we do our things in the state. We are trying to conform with the arrangement of the federation, been a federating unit, we want to have our own unique good governance, our unique security and of course, not undermining the constitution, not undermining national interest, but above all, we want to contribute to the growth of our GDP, this time around economically to tally with the vision 2020 of the present administration.

Can you please shed more light on your board's modus operandi?

R. A: The modus operandi or rather the goal is to ensure that things are done the right way. Considering film making as a profession just like journalism and accountancy, we don’t want to believe that illiteracy can bring the needed security into the filmmaking fold, rather the skill, and the knowledge. We are emphasizing on skill acquisition, this is our primary responsibility, and this is why all professional crew are mandated to have the basic training, to have the basic knowledge of filmmaking before they are certified to either direct, to produce, or act a professional role in a film. Of course there are artists that have abundant talent, and some can be special artistes, but notwithstanding how talented somebody is or gifted by the Almighty if he is taken to a film school where he will be groomed, if he is well shaped by the professionales that knows the film business bette, he will fare better in the film making business compared to when he or she is on her own. Be it may, what we are now saying is professionalism is emphasized in our modus operandi. The context, essence and the fundamental aspects of censorship, are to ensure that the younger ones, the future generation are not misguided or rather are not feed-up with destructive items (values).

What can you say about the success your board recorded so far?

R. A: What we’ve achieved by our own majors so far is a very good way forward because we are now censoring films and we are now correcting things not ours. Notwithstanding, other cultures must be seen in own films, because we are not living in isolation, but they are to be portrayed the way they are, we wouldn’t allow other cultures to be belittled in any way in the process of censoring, we also wouldn’t allow other ethnics or religions to be belittled because it is duty bound on government, especially the Nigerian government which has a multi-religious and multi-ethnic society to rationally and wisely manage. This is why I say by God’s grace, sooner or later, we would have what is called maximum output.

The recent visit of the duos of the Managing Director, Nigeria Film Corporations Jos and the Director General National Film and Videos Censors Board marked the beginning of the spread of the prevailing rumor that your board is gradually attracting national attention. What can you say about these visits?

R. A: Much earlier before the visit of the DG NFVCB, there was that of the MD Nigeria Film Corporation, Mr. Afolabi Adesanya. When he was here, he pleaded with the board on a lot of things, and of course, out of our stakeholders meetings, we resolved to went back and start censoring films, while been very considerate of our contemporary regulations and guidance or rather guidelines, because we will not undermine what we believe is the best solution to that public outcry that I stated to you earlier. When the DG NFVCB was here, we came up with a very good and formidable position; in fact, he is a very good representation of the nation because he was emphasizing on locality and the positive side of local content generation and integration while also insisting on originality in film projects. Above all, he was saying that every public servant must be like what we are in the state, acting as a guardian, or rather custodians of national legislations and state legislations. So, he was trying to make a point to the filmmakers, that if they find ease in belittling the law, if they see no harm in belittling the state legislations, that means they are not helping matters, above all, they will continue to be at logger leads with authorities and of course by so doing, they are but becoming deviant elements of the Nigerian society. So, I respected his submission or rather proposition, not withstanding his appeal that we should be very considerate of the baby industry, a.k.a Kanywood in trying to relax some measures that might be employed in the next ten years not now, for instance, on the issue of digitization, he is not saying we should relax our stance on digitization, but that we should try to revisit our measures so that we will not make filmmakers close shops needlessly and prematurely. We are emphasizing on erecting and maintenance of excellent and equally professional facilities; what we are saying now is that all production companies must be registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission like any other business entity or rather body, but to ask them to do this, they say is a stringent measure. But the reality is, you ought to be registered, because you are in a business, and film making is an investment with its attendant risks and prospects. Also, the issue of a production firm to have the basic office accommodation where at least a computer system is there with a Secretary ought to be considered and checkmated. Most of the companies before we are here are nominal, nominal in the sense that they are nowhere to be found. Most of the so-called production companies believe you me, are mobile and they are not there. Believe you me, we would by God’s grace try to standardize things, and we can only do that with the cooperation and understanding of the stakeholders, that we are out for their betterment, and if they cannot appreciate that, then that’s their problem. Most of them exist without the knowledge of their local authorities; their respective local government authorities don’t even know them, because they don’t have office accommodation. What we are now insisting on is that, you must go back to the local government where you are located, be registered, and be introduced to us by your local government authority before we register you, that’s the best way for us to help the government fetch the required tax from the companies and that’s why we are saying that a tax clearance certificate must accompany your application, and the most astonishing thing to us is that all these to them are stringents, they consider every measure to sanitize and breed order to the system, a stringent measure. That’s why they complain and I don’t think we will compromise on this.

Is it true that your board is given the opportunity to censor films that are not made in Kano?

R. A: You see, we have a very good point here and I want them to stick to their promise. I told you much earlier that in Nigeria we are a federating unit; there are customary laws in the west and in the south; there is the Shari’a penal code in the north and above all there is the constitution. The issue is this, if national agencies or organizations will accord recognition, respect and certain privileges to specific agencies like ours on the area that we are more primaric, then this we can say is a very positive development. Let's assume, in the NFVCB's Preview/Screening Committee there is no, single typical Hausa-Fulani there representing the people? But if we do it here, I mean if we censor Hausa films here, and at the end our certificates are presented to NFVCB during a submission of a Hausa films projects for their own preview, it will be easy for them to censor and nationalize the film project.

What can you say about the controversies surrounding the recent court cases between your board and the film makers in Kano?

R. A: I hope our stakeholders are not mistaking by seeing the KFCB as a home of punitive measures, as if we are the only one. Punitive measures taken by a censorship board globally is the tradition, even NFCVB use to take defaulters before a court of law, High Court of justice for that matter; our is ordinary Magistrate Courts where the provision of the law is very light and mild. Now what I will like people to appreciate our own measures as excellent nd is better than that which is obtainable in the US for instance; the logic is this, employment preventive measures is far better than curative, because it is our tradition, it's our religion to guide stakeholders, preventing him/her from defaulting or erring. Now, what we are doing is before you are allowed to go ahead and kick start the shooting you are required to first of all submit to consultants the proposed script for the film for their vetting, so after been vetted by the consultant, tell me who will complain on it on merit? Unlike allowing somebody accomplished the project, and allowing him to release it into the market and then when some foul are found in it, you then effect an arrest or ban order, is this wise? And believe me that’s what is obtainable in the US, that’s their version of censoring. Our preventive measures can be regarded as Shari’ah and also the tradition of the Hausa Fulani. In our tradition, you don’t allow somebody to breach a law, rather guide him, educate him and saying this thing you are trying to do is consequential, illegally, anti-religious, economically and culturally implicative. By so doing, you are making it less damaging; you are making it less difficult for someone. If you are told on how 3-5 minutes clips are made in a film, you won't be happy asking someone to remove it after he or she is done with the project and we don’t want our stakeholders to be in this big loss, that’s why we are preaching the preventive approach to censorship. What I am now saying in that, these known of controversies has maliciously emanated from people that feel they are above the law, and we believe that nobody is above the law (a principle of democracy 'rule of law'). So our so-called punitive measures, is meant for NFVCB. So what we are saying in essence here is that we will make sure that anybody who feel like he or she is arrogant, or he or she is above the law, face the wrath of the law.

Irrespective of your caliber and status in Kanywood, I am sorry for you, if you breach the law. As per as my own style leadership is concerned, I believe nobody is above the law and above all the most respected element among the stakeholders in our eyes is he who obey the law religiously; somebody who will respect the law however minimal, however insignificant, and however basic he is in the industry, believe you me he is a very big person, but he who sees little harm in breaching the law, however well placed, however influential he is, be he a marketer, be he or she a producer, I am sorry for that person, because, he will find us very uncompromising.

We are on a professional and legal mission, not on political or related issues; I can assure you here and now that there is no any sentiment attached to our activities.

What can you say about support or otherwise that your board is receiving from international bodies?

R. A: Immaterially, we do have support from NGOs and foreign bodies because we use to have intellectual fora, sometimes organized here locally and sometimes we are invited outside the country and sometimes we invite resources persons who are not Nigerians to give transfer skills and modern discoveries to production, just like what happened in the SHOOT 2008 (Jos), which we are there in numbers that not a single state of the federation can match. What I am trying to say is this, as par basic working tools, we are very grateful to this administration of Malam Ibrahim Shekarau. We also have a very good pledge, in fact we make the government to believe that it is high time for the government to invest money in filmmaking and to impact knowledge through seminars, workshops, training, and to sponsor various stakeholders to courses in Nigeria and abroad; all this things we are doing is to complement government accomplish its social responsibilities to the industry.

What about problems?

We don’t have any believe you me. I am not saying we don’t have any in the context that really there are not problems but what I am saying in essence is that the problems we are facing are tolerable. The problem of non-confidence by the general public in the products churned out by our crops of filmmakers is a central problem, and if confidence is lost, everything is lost, and that confidence is what we are assiduously working towards restoring. The crux of the matter is and will be the pursuit of excellence and professionalism in film making and that’s why we are all out to see to it that we will not leave stakeholders that are fond of dishing out all rubbish for the viewership of the teeming public unturned or alone, we will touch you, the way you molest the law; we will deal with you, the way you negatively dealt with the law; in a nutshell this is my prayer, this is my call and in as much you will do it, the way we are urging you to do it, you will have our support.

Indeed, Hausa Movie Industry has its own teething problems- but as Professor Abdalla put it; “that is natural, because it is (still) in its infancy. However, it has the potential of a giant buried in a tiny acorn.”

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Obama’s Al-Azhar Agenda

Some have called it the real Seven-point Agenda. It addressed issues that were/are both current and touchy: extremism and terrorism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, democracy, the status of women, economic empowerment, etc. Out of them all, the issues of violent extremism and the Question of Palestine have been receiving the most attention, not least because of their global impact whose immediacy has been proved over and over gain. In fact, the whole world had looked forward to Obama’s Cairo speech with great anticipation. Not that the theme of the speech was not guessed beforehand, considering what he had said during his first trip to Europe last April and what he had told the Saudi King on the eve of his arrival in Egypt.

As it turned out, Obama did not disappoint his listeners across the world yesterday. He spoke with an erudition and surprising know-how about his subject matter not seen in many decades of American presidency. Those that were in doubt about his depth, finesse and sincerity of purpose – and there are millions of them especially in the Muslim world – must have had second thoughts. His commitment to world peace in the post-Bush era is well known.

What the Cairo declaration seeks to show is that both the United States and Islam – a religion founded on a universal message of peace – can agree on the way forward on the path of entrenching lasting peace on earth. The president has sought to debunk the age-old notion of the “clash of civilisations” in which eggheads like Francis Fukuyama dwelt on the inevitability of cultural collision due to a wide range of irreconcilable differences.

My worry about Obama’s stance as he made clear yesterday is that it is Muslims who need to understand that “America is not -- and never will be -- at war with Islam.” What the president did not say is the origin of the disagreement that has since become a hitherto intractible crisis between Islam and the West. The question is: did Muslims just wake up one day and decide to confront the West? The answer is no. Islam is in conflict with the West simply because of the injustices that the West imposed on weaker nations, especially on Muslims wherever they might be. In most instances they came as a result of a deep-rooted islamophobia. An average Westerner had, for many centuries, regarded a Muslim as “the other,” an alien, a strange being. Nowhere was this exemplified more than in the creation of the state of Israel. That creation, which Zionists began to crow about as the “independence” of Israel, the dislocation of the Palestinians from their land, and all the iniquities that followed the Israeli occupation of Palestine were a fallout of that deeply-ingrained feeling. While Great Britain was the prime mover of the original creation of Israel, a non-existent nation before 1947, it was Uncle Sam that gave it most of what it required to grow up from infancy to a ferocious adulthood. Successive American governments had considered Israel as an extension of the American nation. All the United Nations resolutions enacted to solve the problem or, at best, reduce the pains it brought, were shunned by Israel, and nobody could do anything about it. Hence the Intifada and all the horrors associated with it.

Such injustices were legion. They could be seen in many Muslim lands. In Algeria and recenly in Somalia, political parties that appeared to U.S. administrations as Islamic won elections in free and fair contests, but they were blocked and or demonised by U.S. propagandists as extremist governments. This stance became more pronounced after the World War when the West seemed to lack a concrete enemy to fight. Islam, because of its age-old civilisation, became a ready whipping boy, so to say, to many an American policymaker.

Meanwhile, the American people, on whose behalf U.S. agents fought anything “Islamic” abroad, were wretchedly ignorant of the real issues. The truth is that while the U.S. boasts of the largest and most sophisticated channels of mass communication, its peoples are kept ignorant of the real issues abroad by their governments, journalists and “civil society” groups. And because majority of Americans have not travelled abroad, lived and interacted amongst other peoples, they swallowed hook, line and sinker whatever stereotypes they were fed through the mass media and other fora. That made it easy for America to manipulate the truth about Muslims, with coinages like “fundamentalists,” “extremists” and “terrorists.”

The sad event of 9/11 was a reaction to perceived Western injustices by a segment of Muslims. Such a segment, of course, is a powerful minority among Muslims and does not represent the interest or belief of the rest. Majority of Muslims are peace-loving, taught by their religion to co-exist with the faithful of other religions in many areas of human endeavour. President Obama is latching on Islam’s universal message of peace to isolate the extremists among the Muslims. He may succeed in this, I think, only if he matches rhetoric with action. Across the Muslim world there are millions who desire to live peacefully with their neighbours. America needs to come off clean in its commitment to ensuring this through concrete action.

As I argued in this space soon after Obama’s Ankara speech (“Obama and Rebranding of America, LEADERSHIP, April 10), most of the bad image brand America acquired in the last decade had to do with its treatment of Muslims. Obama has drawn a roadmap for the new relationship between not only his country but also the rest of the West and Muslims. But it isn’t enough for Obama to simply deliver pleasing rhetoric; he must follow them up with action. In that piece, I argued that the determining point to gauge a genuine rapprochement between between the West and Islam is, indeed, the US’ handling of the Palestinian question in the months to come.

Is the U.S. (read: Obama) ready to force the hawkish government of Benjamin Netanyahu to recognise the Palestians’ right to a homeland, with East Jerusalem as their capital? The rhetoric by Obama yesterday about Israel’s special place in the American psyche was a disturbing rehash of the old argument by past U.S. governments. If he cannot successfully push for the two-state option that he canvasses today, then forget it; it would be near-impossible to isolate the extremists who are always looking for such weaknesses to advance their cause while trying to persuade the majority to support them.

On the other hand it was cheering to hear President Obama expressing commitment to righting the other major wrongs in the U.S. foreign policy: the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Withdrawing the marines from those countries and allowing the people to manage their own lives would assure Muslims that America is no longer the brute others consider it to be. That should be followed up with concrete action on the treatment of Muslims in other Muslim countries and in the West. Surely that would encourage the Muslims to believe in Obama’s promises and see the need for unity. It would help isolate the extremists, forcing them to remember the teachings of the holy Qur’an that emphasise the mutual respect for human dignity and the life of all people.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Obama’s Speech in Cairo

This speech, considered epochal in the Islam - West relations, was delivered in Cairo by President Obama yesterday

I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement. Together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I am grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. I am also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: assalaamu alaykum.

We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world – tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. This has bred more fear and mistrust.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." That is what I will try to do – to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.

Part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I am a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.

As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.

Know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers – Thomas Jefferson – kept in his personal library.

So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words – within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: "Out of many, one."
Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores – that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.

So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations – to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.

Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.

For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. And when innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.

This is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes subjugating one another to serve their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared.

That does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: we must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.

The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.

In Ankara, I made clear that America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.

The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice, we went because of necessity. I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.

Make no mistake: we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.

That's why we're partnering with a coalition of forty-six countries. And despite the costs involved, America's commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths – more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace.

We also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who have been displaced. And that is why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend upon.

Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: "I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be."

Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future – and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is its own. That is why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq's democratically-elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all our troops from Iraq by 2012. We will help Iraq train its Security Forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter our principles. 9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.

So America will defend itself respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.

The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them – and all of us – to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel's legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.

The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

It will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America's interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.

I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.
That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

There is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, heart, and soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it is being challenged in many different ways.

Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of another's. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld – whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. And fault lines must be closed among Muslims as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.

Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.

Indeed, faith should bring us together. That is why we are forging service projects in America that bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That is why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's Interfaith dialogue and Turkey's leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into Interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action – whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.

The sixth issue that I want to address is women's rights.

I know there is debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now let me be clear: issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons, and our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity – men and women – to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.

Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.

I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and changing communities. In all nations – including my own – this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we will lose of control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities – those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.

But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradiction between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.

This is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf States have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century, and in too many Muslim communities there remains underinvestment in these areas. I am emphasizing such investments within my country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas in this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.

On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America, while encouraging more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in on-line learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a teenager in Kansas can communicate instantly with a teenager in Cairo.

On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.

On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create jobs. We will open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new Science Envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, and grow new crops. And today I am announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.

All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.
The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world we seek – a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God's children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.

I know there are many – Muslim and non-Muslim – who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort – that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country – you, more than anyone, have the ability to remake this world.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort – a sustained effort – to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples – a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us, "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."
The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."
The Holy Bible tells us, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you.